‘The Legend of Korra’ and LGBTQIA Representation
**Warning: Spoilers Ahead**
“Why read an article about a children’s show?” you may be asking. Okay, fair enough, children’s shows don’t really seem like hard-hitting news. But as Nickelodeon’s The Legend of Korra ended its last episode with a romantic shot of a same-sex couple, I’d say it’s pretty newsworthy.
There is some argument about whether or not the couple—the main character Korra and her best friend, Asami—are actually a couple. They didn’t kiss, but just held hands and stared longingly into each other’s eyes. I think it’s safe to say that if that was a picture of a male and a female, there would be no argument as to whether or not their relationship is romantic. This shot, for those of you who didn’t watch the season finale, is of the two women beginning to take a trip together after a touching scene during which they express how much they care about each other. It was pretty gay.
Side-note: Avatar: The Last Airbender, the show of which The Legend of Korra is a spin-off, ended with a kiss between the main character and his girlfriend. These two moments are clearly meant to be viewed as parallels.
Despite the strides made towards the representation of queer relationships in the media, children’s television is noticeably lacking LGBTQIA characters. Besides the brief gay-dads appearance in Frozen (number five), the often-debated but pretty much accepted as lesbian couple of Princess Bubblegum and Marceline in Cartoon Network’s Adventure Time, and ParaNorman’s end reveal that the dumb jock character was gay, there isn’t much. And it’s pretty easy to see why. There are still plenty of bigoted parents out there that will turn the TV off if they see a gay couple being presented in a positive way. As one commenter on an article about The Legend of Korra’s season finale put it, “there’s no reason to expose impressionable children to that nonsense.”
While this comment is completely homophobic and incorrect, I think with a little twist it can perfectly sum up why we need more shows like Korra that feature LGBTQIA characters. There is every reason to expose impressionable children to that aspect of life. Kids need to see gay characters on television, just as they need to see strong female characters on television. They need to know that being gay is okay, that happy gay couples exist, that you can be gay and have a family.
Korra is even more important. It took two female characters that began their relationship by fighting over a boy, but eventually both got over the boy as a powerful friendship grew. Korra is the Avatar (the most powerful being in this fictional world) so her character that is always drawn with visible muscles, showing that girls can be beautiful and strong at the same time. Asami is portrayed as incredibly intelligent and takes over her father’s company as CEO. Their relationship went from cattiness to friendship to something more, making them a fan favorite even before it was canon in the last episode. And while the last two seasons of Korra were only aired online by Nickelodeon, the show has had plenty of viewers, many of whom were older fans leftover from Avatar: The Last Airbender, which ended in 2008. Both series are progressive in a variety of ways, with their heavy Asian influences, examination of morality and government, and their female characters. The Legend of Korra’s last scene stands out as a step in the right direction for children’s media.
For some reason, it’s almost 2015 and any sexuality besides heterosexuality is still seen as something unfit for children’s eyes. Showing two girls kissing is somehow more damaging that showing a straight couple kissing. Kids can’t be “exposed” to homosexuality or they’ll turn gay themselves. Plus, a gay couple is somehow more sexual than a straight one, and therefore inappropriate for kids. I call bullshit on all of this.
The Legend of Korra may not have actually shown two girls kissing, but it did end the series with two women portrayed in a romantic way. And to hopefully put an end to any arguments, the show’s creators have both blogged about how the two women are in fact a couple. As creator Bryan Konietzko wrote, “Was it a slam-dunk victory for queer representation? I think it falls short of that, but hopefully it is a somewhat significant inching forward. It has been encouraging how well the media and the bulk of the fans have embraced it.” This is a small step, but it is a step in the right direction, towards more LGBTQIA representation in children’s media. For that reason, The Legend of Korra is a pretty important kid’s show.